The Year of Kenobi: Jedi Apprentice #5 – The Defenders of the Dead

Missed a post? Catch up on The Year of Kenobi here.

Damn, the one-two punches really don’t stop, do they? At this point I need to stop being surprised when this series brings the roller coaster of angst and plot. I am objectively aware that books for younger readers can absolutely sustain a mature, long-running plot but I continue to be impressed by the serialized nature of these books. only a quarter of the way through and this one brings with it a huge status quo change. Let’s get right to it: Jedi Apprentice #5 – The Defenders of the Dead by Jude Watson.

The Story

Following their success in ensuring a peaceful political transition on Gala, Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi fly out to Melida/Daan, a world that has been embroiled in centuries of conflict resulting in a schism of the people living there. They now live as two groups, the Melida and the Daan, neither of whom can remember what caused the conflict to begin with.

Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan are sent to retrieve a fellow Jedi, Tahl, whose attempts to help broker a peace just got her taken by one of the warring groups. When they arrive on Melida/Daan, they are immediately swept up into the conflict themselves, at the mercy of partisan adults who have forgotten what it is they fight for and are driven only by a compulsive need to win at any cost.

The Master and Padawan are taken in by a group known as the Young, teenagers who all lost their families to the fighting one way or another. Obi-Wan becomes fast friends with their leaders Nield and Cerasi and becomes increasingly invested in their cause and fight for peace, much to Qui-Gon’s growing concern.

Thoughts and Impressions

When I talk about how impressed I am with the maturity of this series, stuff like this is what I mean. The Melida/Daan conflict is one with no easy answer, mostly because anyone still alive to experience it wasn’t born when it began. They inherited an old fight that wasn’t theirs and grew up knowing only conflict. The same can be said for the children who now make up the Young, who also grew up knowing only conflict, and who seek to break the cycle. The problem is that these kids only know so much, and in trying to change the system wind up just perpetuating it.

Obi-Wan continues to display that kind of youthful energy and attitude that we all know will be under control by the time he reaches adulthood. I imagine it’s why he’s so patient with Anakin later on. But what we get a sense of here is Obi-Wan’s kindness and his heart already in full bloom. He helps out Neild and Cerasi, in defiance of what Qui-Gon tells him he can and can’t do, and he does so knowing he isn’t allowed but believing rather that the rules are wrong, or at the very least open to interpretation.

It might look like this is the kind of compassion and rebellion that gets crushed as Obi-Wan gets older, but I personally don’t see it that way. Even though adult Obi-Wan tries his best to lead with his head and not his heart, he cannot ever fully separate the two. His compassion is what winds up causing problems for him down the line, and apparently this has just always been a problem for him. Well, some might see it as a problem, I certainly don’t.

What was really interesting to me, though, is how Qui-Gon Jinn is depicted. Popular conversation around Qui-Gon often paints him as the rebel Jedi. The rule breaker. So it was deeply amusing to me to see him be the stick in the mud this time around. Obi-Wan wants to break with the councils orders, and Qui-Gon is the one calling for a return to Coruscant for due process. Due process? Sir, who are you? I’m sure one of the later books will touch on why this instance was different – Obi-Wan even calls him on breaking rules only when convenient – or maybe he’ll realize Obi-Wan was right. Either way, I was not expecting the stark role reversal.

What’s Next

The book ends with Qui-Gon and Tahl en route to Coruscant, with Obi-Wan staying behind on Melida/Daan to fight alongside the Young. Qui-Gon tells him that he is no longer a Jedi, something which affects young Obi-Wan very deeply. Obviously we have several more books to go, so this is clearly not going to stick, but they really are packing on the weight of emotions with these two.

***

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